The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) will publish the first illustrated history of Oscar Heyman & Brothers, a U.S. high jewelry firm that has designed and crafted pieces for some of the world's most prestigious jewelry brands since 1912.
Oscar Heyman: The Jewelers’ Jeweler contains new photography of vintage and contemporary pieces created by the New York jewelry house, as well as design drawings from the firm’s archives. The book reveals Oscar Heyman’s important role in the story of high-style American jewelry.
The book is authored by Yvonne J. Markowitz, Rita J. Kaplan and Susan B. Kaplan, curator emerita of Jewelry at the MFA, and Elizabeth Hamilton, an independent writer and researcher. It is produced by MFA Publications, the publishing division of the museum. It will be available April 1 in the MFA Shops, retail bookstores and online. It is one of several titles dedicated to jewelry that have been produced by MFA Publications in recent years.
Oscar Heyman is known within the jewelry industry for creating pieces for some of the most prestigious jewelry brands in world, including Cartier, Tiffany & Co., Harry Winston, Van Cleef & Arpels, Shreve, Crump & Low and Black, Starr & Frost.
“For more than a century, Oscar Heyman & Brothers … has maintained a national reputation for outstanding ornaments set with superior gemstones,” Markowitz said. “Until recently, the Oscar Heyman name was unknown outside the jewelry world, as the company preferred anonymity and discretion, but today the brand is synonymous with dazzling, high-style jewels.”
Oscar Heyman & Brothers has been a family business since its establishment, now in its third generation. The company’s founding brothers, Oscar and Nathan, apprenticed at a workshop that produced high-style ornaments for the Russian court jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé before leaving Eastern Europe for New York. Within a few years, they established their own firm, distinctive for dynamic and contemporary designs, fine craftsmenship, technological sophistication and high-quality materials. Eventually, the other Heyman brothers joined the growing business, which remains entirely autonomous—maintaining in-house production of jewelry from inception through completion—to this day.
“It’s inspiring to see how far Oscar Heyman has come since my grandfather and great uncles started the business,” said Tom Heyman, partner at Oscar Heyman & Brothers. “Readers will come to appreciate our rich history and unique combination of engineering capabilities, technical skill and artistic style, which enable us to continue to create one-of-a-kind pieces.”
The publication tells the firm’s history from its beginnings at the turn of the 20th Century and traces its growth and innovation decade by decade. Nearly 70 ornaments are highlighted, demonstrating how the business adapted new aesthetics in response to the changing desires of consumers. The earliest examples include a 1929 platinum, diamond and emerald brooch from the MFA’s collection. Originally owned and frequently worn by the heiress and art collector Marjorie Merriweather Post, the brooch fuses design elements of Art Deco and the Edwardian era.
Major milestones detailed in the book include the firm’s participation in two New York World’s Fairs. In 1939, Oscar Heyman & Brothers manufactured ornaments for four prominent retailers on display at the “House of Jewels,” one of the most extravagant exhibition pavilions. Although unknown to the public, the firm’s involvement in the exhibition solidified its reputation among clients, as many retailers recognized the signature floral designs, exquisite craftsmanship and superior gems. The next New York World’s Fair, held in 1964, did not have a dedicated jewelry pavilion but Oscar Heyman & Brothers designed the official commemorative necklace in partnership with the Linde Star Company.
The publication also contains 15 design drawings from the Oscar Heyman Archive. These include designs for patriotic World War II ornaments, such as brooches featuring the American eagle, as well as for a diamond and emerald necklace that was made in 1956 and gifted decades later to Elizabeth Taylor by Michael Jackson.
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